For those on the Autism Spectrum in Louisiana, COVID-19 makes adjusting to the new normal difficult

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WEST MONROE, LA (5/3/20)– While COVID-19 has caused many struggles in our community, for those on the Autism Spectrum, the new normal doesn’t make sense.

“It just breaks my heart because I can’t get him to understand it’s not that we aren’t letting him go, he can’t go. So he’s adjusting to the routine of being here all day,” said Jessica Chappell, son has Autism.

For 6-year-old Tyler Chappel, losing his normal routine has been tough. Doctor Dawn Stanfield says it can be detrimental.

“One of the biggest characteristics of Autism is needing routine and covid-19 has disrupted these individuals routine,” said Dr. Stanfield.

Tyler doesn’t understand why he can’t go to school. His mother, Jessica, says Tyler often walks around the house with his book bag on ready for class. When he get’s a glimpse of what’s normal, he breaks down.

“When we go to Mac’s Fresh Market, he goes to Drew Elementary, I have to go the long way because if we pass the school, it’s an automatic meltdown,” said Jessica.

Experts say an increase in episodes like that, along with self injury and confusion is common when people with autism can’t do what’s familiar.

“For someone with Autism, not being able to see someone that they are use to seeing could be a whole detrimental thing. They may not grasp why these individuals can no longer come around,” said Dr. Stanfield.

Like Tyler’s teachers.

“He knows i’m not his teacher, he wants his teacher, he wants his therapist, he wants his friends, so it’s an adjustment for him to try and get him to let me teach him,” said Jessica.

Jessica says, once this pandemic is over, they’ll have to adjust again to try and get Tyler back to his normal routine. Dr. Stanfield says the best thing parents can do right now for their kids on the spectrum is find a routine for them.

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